What is a Low-Cost Carrier?

I believe we have in one way or the other come across the word Low-Cost Carrier/ Airline (LCC) especially those familiar with aviation news stories. Before I got to know what it was, I used to think it is the name of a particular airline or an agency/ organization the airline operates under its supervision, well I know better now and have decided to share with you our readers.

According to Wikipedia “Low-cost Carrier(LCC) is an airline that is operated with an especially high emphasis on minimizing operating cost and without some of the traditional services and amenities provided in the fare, resulting to lower flight fares and fewer comforts.” That is to simply say that, Low-cost carrier or low budget airline whichever way it is called are airlines with cheaper flight fares and offers limited services.

The term originated among the airline industry, referring to the airlines operating under low structure and budget, with cheaper tickets prices, with no or limited services to customers as Low-cost carrier. Some airlines intentionally advertise themselves as low-cost carrier and still provide services associated with traditional mainline carriers.

Low-cost carrier business model practices vary widely. Some practices are more common in certain regions, while others are generally universal. The common theme among all low-cost carriers is the reduction of cost and reduced overall fares compared to mainline carriers.

Note that it’s not just the cheaper tickets fares that makes it a low-cost carrier, but it is the operating model that makes the difference.

Common practice among low-cost airlines

Most low-cost carriers operate aircraft configured with a single passenger class, and most operate just a single aircraft type, that way cabin and ground crew will only have to be trained to work on one type of aircraft.  However some low-cost carriers choose to operate more than one type and configure their aircraft with more than one passenger class. This is also beneficial from a maintenance standpoint as spare parts and mechanics will only be dedicated to one type of aircraft. These airlines tend to operate short-haul flights that suit the range of narrow-body (single aisle) planes. As of lately there is also a rise in demand for long range low-cost flights and the availability of next generation planes that make long haul routes more feasible for LCCs.

Most low-cost carriers operate older aircraft purchased as second-hand, such as the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and older models of the Boeing 737. Since 2000, fleets generally consist of the newest aircraft, commonly the Airbus A320 family and Boeing 737. Although buying new aircraft is usually more expensive than second-hand, new planes are cheaper to operate in the long run since they are extremely efficient in terms of fuel, training, maintenance, and crew costs per passenger.

According to Wikipedia Ch-aviation in 2013, published a study about the fleet strategy of low-cost carriers. They summarized that major LCCs that order aircraft in large numbers get large discounts for doing so, and due to this they can sell their aircraft just a few years after delivery at a price high enough to keep their operating costs relatively low.

Some LCCs often operate their aircraft with a minimum set of optional equipment, further reducing costs of acquisition and maintenance, as well as keeping the weight of the aircraft lower and thus saving fuel. Like Ryanair, their seats do not recline and do not have rear pockets, to reduce cleaning and maintenance costs. Others have no window shades. Pilot conveniences, such as ACARS, may be excluded. Often, no in-flight entertainment systems are made available, though many US low-cost carriers do offer satellite television or radio in-flight. It is also becoming a popular approach to install LCD monitors into the aircraft and broadcast advertisements on them, coupled with the traditional route–altitude–speed information. Most do not offer reserved seating, hoping to encourage passengers to board early and quickly, thus decreasing turnaround times. Some allow priority boarding for an extra fee instead of reserved seating, and some allow reserving a seat in an emergency exit row (for longer leg room) at an extra cost.  Airlines have also reduced their cost using several of these practices.

Innovative Practice

Most airlines these days work with aircraft manufacturers, but airlines such as AirAsia go a step further, working with airports to develop specially designed low-cost terminals that require far less overhead. Lower costs are passed on to the airline, and in turn to the customer. Ryanair generally make the airports accept their boarding passes which passengers print themselves, although at some airports (where Ryanair is not dominating) passengers have to replace it with a normal boarding pass from the airport. Other practices that reduce expenses are the use of UAVs for aircraft checkups, tablet PCs instead of logs on paper (reduces airplane weight), and smart glasses for the pilot.

List of some popular LCCs


  • Air Arabia (Egypt)
  • Namibia Fly Africa
  • Mango Airtimes (south Africa)
  • Air Peace (Kenya)
  • Comair (South Africa)


  • Norwegian air (Argentina)
  • Air Canada
  • JetBlue (US)
  • Spirit Airlines (US)
  • EasyFly (Colombia)


  • Air India Express
  • IndiGo (India)
  • China United Airlines
  • FlyDubai
  • AirArabia


  • Ryanair (Ireland)
  • EasyJet
  • Pobeda (Russia)
  • Iberia Express (Spain)
  • euroWigs (Germany)
  • wizzAir (Hungary)



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *